Brisbane fog

The first fog of the year in Brisbane is always greeted with fascination. Well, for me anyway. Fogs always remind me of when I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, where there were some fantastic 'pea-soupers'.
The first Brisbane fog of 2013 came in June and it was a good one. I start work at ABC News Online at 6am and my alarm is set for 4.10am. On the morning of 'the fog' I woke and got ready and it was only when I pulled back the curtain and looked out the window just before I left, that I saw it was quite foggy. June in Brisbane is winter, so 4am is well and truly night time. I set off for the bus station to get the 5am bus and the fog looked great. Walking up my street to the bus station I could see it was a thick one. I took the camera out and fire off a couple of frames of street lights and traffic lights and passing vehicles on the main road near where I live.
The same happened at the bus station, where I took some more photos. The bus got about halfway into the city and the fog appeared to dissapate, and I thought I might have seen the best of it. Still, the Brisbane River runs through the CBD, where I get off, and if there's going to be thick fog anywhere, it's going to be close to the river. Sure enough, I got off at my usual stop in the city and the fog was thick (I get off a couple of stops early and walk the rest of the way - for the exercise and it's a nice walk along the river).
Instead of walking along the Brisbane River, I decided to walk through the CBD and started taking photos as I went. The fog and the night time made everything look so photogenic and there were no shortage of images - car headlights illuminating from the depths of the fog, lone figures silhouetted by the fog as they crossed city streets. It was a photographer's dream.
After I knew I had around four really good images, I started thinking I might be able to get a photo gallery out of my morning's efforts, so I started looking seriously to get several more images. I rang the news desk and told them what I was up to - it was a quiet morning in the office - and that I might be a few minutes late.
I didn't wander from the direct route I would have taken if I'd chosen to walk to work through the CBD and photos kept appearing before me. I stopped at the top of William Street and prepared to cross the road in order to walk across the Victoria Bridge, which crosses the Brisbane River. The lights on the bridge disappeared into the fog while the headlights of buses coming over the rise in the bridge lit up the fog like beacons. I took some photos and started walking across the bridge.
When I got to the other side I turned and looked back. That's where I was when I took the above photo. The lights looked nice but on their own didn't really mean much. News photos are 99% about people, so I needed someone in my photo to make it complete. At that time of the morning - 5.45am - it wasn't exactly peak hour and the fog kept many of the regular joggers/walkers in bed. As a result, I had to stand around and wait for someone to walk across the bridge - preferably towards me. Victoria Bridge isn't somewhere too many people loiter about, especially with a camera in hand in the pre-dawn darkness, so when a few people walked past me heading towards the city, I pretended I was taking lots of photos of this and that in the fog. I did take a few photos of them as they disappeared into the distance but it wasn't what I was wanting.
Finally, after around five minutes, someone started walking towards me. When they got close enough I started taking photos but, at the same time, a bus trundled over the bridge heading towards the CBD. This buggered up my photo because I just wanted one person and the lights of the bridge. The bus was a distraction!
I gave up on that photo and waited some more. A few others walked past heading towards the city and this did me no favours. I was about to say 'sod it' and make do with what I has when, in the distance, I saw the bobbing of a head as someone appeared over the rise in the bridge. I looked behind me and, despite the fog, there was no traffic - pedestrian or motorised - sneaking up behind me to screw up my photo.
'Great', I thought, and started snapping away. As I did I saw the fog light up from what was obviously a car and I started to curse under my breath - I just wanted a pedestrian and the lights of the bridge. I kept taking photos, telling myself I'd wait until the car headlights were visible (at which point the fog would be too brightly lit to work). I had a quick look at the back of the camera and I knew there would be something there, although not quite what I was hoping for. It wasn't the be all and end all if I didn't get the exact photo I wanted.
A short time later I was at my desk at ABC News Online and had downloaded the photos I'd taken that morning. I could view the photos big on the screen and it was then that I noticed the 'star' effect of the car's headlights shining through the railing. The headlights weren't so obtrusive that they took away from the composition of the photo and the lone figure of the pedestrian was large enough so that you could see it was 'someone'. Plus, the headlights that I was adamant I didn't want, actually worked in the photo's favour because the 'star' effect added the extra element. As is the case with many photos in this blog, it's always that 'something' else that lifts the photo above what would have made it otherwise run-of-the-mill.

The full photo gallery of fog pics taken on my way to work that morning can be seen HERE.

Gear used - Canon 60D, 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 lens, 6400ISO, 1/100sec f5.6


The new Lord Mayor

Sometimes photos just fall into your lap and, when it does, it's fabulous.
The guy sitting on the seat is Campbell Newman, one time Lord Mayor of Brisbane. Running under the slogan 'Can Do Campbell', he was elected Lord Mayor in 2004. This photo was taken the day after he won the election when he was doing a media call in New Farm Park in the inner-Brisbane suburb of New Farm.
The Lord Mayor had gathered with his family in the rotunda at the park and we'd all assembled to take lots of photos and footage for that day's news.
All the family photos had been taken - sitting in the rotunda, walking through the park...you name it, we did it - and we asked Campbell if we could get some photos/footage of him on his own.
We selected a bench seat for him (the one in this photo) and he sat there while we photographed/filmed him.
We were all positioned quite a way away from Campbell getting some 'long' shots. While we were going about our job, this old bloke saw the new Lord Mayor sitting there 'on his own' and, seemingly oblivious to the media pack assembled 20 or so metres away, wandered over to Campbell, introduced himself and started giving him a few pointers as to what he should and shouldn't be doing.
Normally if someone wandered into our photo we'd tell them to sod off. However, we'd all been photographing/filming Campbell long enough and were just about done with him, so the old bloke's intervention was timed to perfection (I doubt he knew that).
Not only that, it was obvious he was really passionate about whatever it was he was talking about and all sorts of hand gestures were being made as he spoke. The Lord Mayor sat there and listened to him. Being his first day on the job he was probably a bit bewildered by what was happening and made sure he looked interested (the media was close by, after all).
The funny thing was, after 30 seconds or so, the old bloke looked up and saw us all photographing/filming him. However, he didn't break stride and made some comment about us being there before turning his attention back to the Lord Mayor and contining his spiel.
Up until 'old bloke' came along we'd all taken some nice photos/footage and were quite happy knowing it would get a run the following day. However, the old bloke had unwittingly, added that special x-factor to the event and guaranteed that the photo was going to move closer to the front of the newspaper as a result. He'd turned a 'run-of-the-mill' photo call into an actual news story.
We all got the old bloke's name (although I can't remember what it was) and he made sure he gave us all an earful of what he'd been sharing with the Lord Mayor before he let us go on our way.

Gear used - Nikon D100 DSLR, Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 lens, 400ISO, 1/500 sec f5.6


Banana boy

This photo is of one of my hitches from my hitchhiking journey around Australia (1998) photographing everyone who gave me a lift and writing about each hitch (http://soididbook.blogspot.com.au/).
This bloke, Tim, was my 31st hitch. I was hitchhiking from Uluru to Melbourne (my team was storming into the finals...more on that later) and he picked me up on the outskirts of Adelaide. It was a good hitch as he was heading all the way to Melbourne - score!
Because I was going to be with Tim all day I didn't stress too much about what I was going to do for a photo. I was looking forward to sitting back and chilling out. As the day progressed, though, I began to wonder what I was going to do. Nothing was jumping out at me. We stopped off somewhere (can't remember where) and I tried a few ideas. They looked like rubbish through the camera and, even without the ability to see what I'd taken, I knew they were crap. While I'd been with Tim most of the day and we were pretty relaxed in each other's company, I didn't want to hold him up while I tried to come up with ideas for a photo.
We got back into the car and headed off. Among other things, the weather was pretty ordinary...we were in Victoria after all! It was cold and drizzly, often rainy. That, as much as anything, was reason enough not to waste Tim's time trying to take his photo. He sure as hell wasn't going to want to keep getting out of the warmth of the car and into the shitty weather to have his photo taken.
We kept motoring down the highway, chatting as we went. After an hour or so since my ordinary attempt at taking a photo, Tim took out a banana, partially peeled it and started eating it as he drove.
I took no notice of what he'd done and we kept talking. Then I looked across and saw what you see here i.e the beautiful soft light falling on the lovely composition of the hand on the wheel holding the banana.
I immediately knew that was the photo I was after and reached for my camera bag between my feet. Tim was a hungry boy and started to go for another munch on the banana. I nearly jumped out of my seat as the banana moved towards his mouth.
'Stop!' I said. 'Don't take another bite.'
He didn't know what the hell was going on so I told him and made him put his hand back on the steering wheel. He jokingly told me he was hungry and was keen to finish his banana. I got my camera out and fired off no more than half a dozen frames (I always kept my shooting to a minimum when I was hitching). Tim was then free to finish his banana and I could relax the rest of the way to Melbourne. Even without the ability to see what I'd taken, I knew it was a good shot.
I wasn't bothered by the fact I couldn't see Tim's face. The stipulation I'd set out for myself was that I had to get part or all of my hitch and part or all of their vehicle in shot - hand, banana and steering wheel was good enough for me.

As mentioned before, the reason I'd hitched to Melbourne was because my footy team (North Melbourne) was storming into the finals and were sure to make the grand final, which they did. The only problem was they lost and I sat in a pub in South Melbourne crying into my beer as they kicked themselves out of a victory - 8 goals, 22 points (including 2 goals, 11 points in the 2nd quarter...it still digs deep).

Gear used - Nikon FM2, Nikkor 24mm f2.8 lens, Neopan 1600ISO film, 1/125 f5.6


Red Nose Day

I was working for the Courier Mail and a journo and I were heading out west - I can't remember exactly where and what for - when we drove over a rise in the road.
Way ahead in the distance we could see a group of people walking along the road. Considering we were in the middle of nowhere, this seemed a bit odd. We were belting along so slowed down and, as we drove past, we saw a young guy and girl walking ahead of an older bloke pushing a big red 'thing'.
We didn't know what was going on but we decided we should investigate. By now we had sped past them, so we turned the car around and drove back past them, pulling over a few hundred metres ahead of them.
We got out and I grabbed one of my cameras with a 300mm lens on it. I got a couple of okay photos of them all heading along the road but, to be honest, the guy and girl got in the way of the more interesting aspect of the photo - the old bloke pushing the big red 'thing'.
As the group neared, the guy and girl slowed and the journo asked them what they were doing. It turned out they were on a charity walk from Roma to Brisbane, a distance of 475km, or around a six hour drive, for red nose day, and the red thing being pushed was a big, round red 'nose' with a handle attached so it could be pushed along the road.
We instantly knew we'd stumbled across a decent yarn and started the process of interviewing the young couple. I looked behind them at the older bloke pushing the red nose and knew that an open stretch of road like that we were on would lend itself to some good photos.
The old bloke neared us and the journo peeled off to ask him a couple of questions.
"I can't talk," said the old bloke as the journo asked his first question. "I don't want to stop and break my momentum." The old bloke didn't even look at the journo as he spoke, so focused was his concentration.
I was hoping to get a shot of all three of the party walking along the road but the old bloke's determination not to break his stride pretty much put paid to that and, not for the first time in my career, I had to come up with a quickfire Plan B.
I stood there as the journo turned back to the couple and resumed asking them questions. I figured we were going to have to drive well ahead of the old bloke and get a shot of them all powering along. As I mulled over this idea I looked back at the old bloke heading off into the distance.
Normally photographing people front on is the done thing when it comes to news photography. However, in this case, the journey was the story and not so much the old bloke. Looking at him walking away from me made sense - with the road stretching away in front of him, it implied many things - and instinctively I raised the camera and started firing. I kept firing and let the old bloke grow smaller and smaller in the frame.
By now the journo had finished with the couple and I suggested we get in the car and race ahead of the old bloke. I think we even gave the couple a lift so they could be in shot also.
As planned, we sped ahead of the old bloke and I jumped out. I grabbed my camera with the 300mm lens and started firing. It looked okay but I knew in the back of my mind I liked the other shot better.
As the old bloke neared I changed cameras and grabbed the young couple, placing them by the side of the road so I could get them in shot as the old bloke walked past.
I fired off several frames of the 'group' photo but all the time I knew the best shot was the original one. It was simple and said it all - less is more...well and truly.
Normally you gave the office a choice of photos, horizontal (landscape) and vertical (portrait), in order to give them an option depending on the shape of the space they had on the page. However, from memory, I don't think I even gave them an option. I knew what the best pic was and that was all I gave them (I may have begged a little to make sure that photo used).

Gear used - Nikon D100 DSLR, Nikkor 300mm f2.8 lens, 400ISO, 1/500 sec f8.